Driver in Deadly Biker Crash Released

5 died, 6 were injured in a crash near Ocotillo

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    NEWSLETTERS

    NBC San Diego

    A suspected drunken driver who killed five people when his car slammed into a group of motorcyclists has been released from custody in Southern California.

    Lance Heath, 43 and Amy Heath, 36, of Alpine, Bill Miller, 57, of Ramona and Tonya Trayer, 37, of El Cajon died on Highway 98 just west of El Centro when they were hit head-on Saturday by a Dodge Avenger.

    Deadly Crash Kills 5

    [DGO] Deadly Crash Kills 5
    A group of 12 motorcyclists were traveling in the Imperial Valley when they were struck by a car. (Published Sunday, Nov 14, 2010)

    Carlos Ramirez Bobadilla, 36, of Mexicali, Mexico, was arrested Saturday at a hospital for investigation of misdemeanor drunken driving, but he was not booked into a jail.

    The California Highway Patrol says he's not considered at fault for the Saturday crash on a highway 80 miles east of San Diego. Authorities are still looking for the driver of a gold Honda Civic The driver was trying to pass the line of motorcycles on two-lane, state Route 98 about 80 miles east of San Diego but lacked clearance to get back into the right lane and wound up driving head-on toward Bobadilla's car, according to investigators.

    The members of the Saddletramps motorcycle club of Lakeside held painfully somber prayers outside the San Diego Harley-Davidson Store in Kearny Mesa on Sunday.  The club was on the ride to Yuma, Ariz. to celebrate the club's 10th anniversary.

    Club president Carl Smith said the crash sent one bike, "probably 10 foot in the air totally engulfed in flames."

    The collision also killed a passenger inside the Avenger, 31-year-old Ana Lilia Gonzalez of Mexicali, Mexico. But witnesses say that sedan is also a victim of the crash. They say the true culprit was a gold Honda Civic that tried to get around them on the eastbound lanes by driving into on-coming traffic. The Dodge was going in the opposite direction and lost control as its driver tried to avoid the Honda, plowing into the pack that was 12 choppers deep.

    "An idiot, trying to pass 12 bikes at a time. I mean we were riding the speed limit," the Saddle Tramps Vice President said about the driver of the Honda.

    "We know what car you were driving. We know you were wearing a baseball cap. Some of them even saw your face," said the victims' friend Monica Smith.

    The Honda escaped the wreck and simply drove away, according to the CHP.

    Club members say the driver left more than five lifeless bodies on the highway.

    "You've left some children without their parents and their mother and you wouldn't want that happening to you. Okay? Whatever your penalty is be a man."

    Carl Smith is asking the driver to turn himself in and be responsible.

    Club members believe Bobadilla, the driver of the Avenger, is not to blame for the crash. They say the wreck would have been impossible to avoid.

    Bobadilla remained hospitalized in San Diego with a fractured head and leg and a scalp laceration, California Highway Patrol Officer DeAnn Goudie said.

    John Lombardo, 55, of Lakeside, who was treated for a leg injury and released, said the crash was like a bomb going off.

    "The other car, all I remember is seeing that thing skidding right at us, and I thought, I'm dead," Lombardo told the Union-Tribune.

    Tonya Trayer's husband, Wilson Trayer, 39 was in a coma Monday after suffering a broken jaw, crushed pelvis, broken leg, spinal and other injuries.

    Melanie Barnes, 46, of San Diego suffered a crushed pelvis and was in a medically induced coma as doctors tried to reduce swelling from a brain hemorrhage, Smith said.

    Her husband, William Barnes, 57, suffered a punctured lung, broken hip and broken ankle but was alert and doing well, Smith said

    Bobadilla's speedometer was found stuck at 60 mph, 5 mph below the speed limit, Goudie said.

    A motorcyclist reported the gold Honda appeared to be traveling around 95 mph, she added.

    The crash happened on Saturday around 1 p.m. on State Route 98 near Ocotillo, a few miles north of the Mexico border and 80 miles east of San Diego.